Anquan Boldin is emerging as locker room leader

November 18, 2010|Mike Preston

Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin doesn't talk a lot, but he is never at a loss for words.

So when the Ravens were stinking up the Georgia Dome Thursday night in Atlanta, Boldin delivered a halftime speech to his teammates. Apparently, some of them didn't get the message, because after quarterback Joe Flacco threw an interception on the Ravens first possession of the third quarter, it was on.

And Boldin went off.

In front of a national TV audience, Boldin ripped into his offensive teammates in a speech that would have made Gen. George S. Patton proud. The Ravens responded with three second-half touchdowns, and the new offensive leader was born.

"Certain guys don't say much because they don't have to," said Boldin, an eight year veteran. "Certain guys are respected in the locker room because of the way they approach and how they play the game, and I think the guys respect me that way. They know I don't say much, but I say it for a reason, and I mean what I say."

I like this guy.

The Ravens haven't had a legitimate leader on offense since tight end Shannon Sharpe at the turn of the century. They've had some great players, but quiet ones like Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis and Todd Heap. Veteran receiver Derrick Mason is a leader in his own way, but he has a quick trigger finger. His temper can explode like he does on a comeback route even though Mason has been pretty subdued this season.

Boldin, though, has patience, and he can have the rhythm of a Southern Baptist minister or be as fiery as a sailor that has been out to sea for a year.

Either way, he touches souls.

"You've got to pick and choose when you say things to certain people, and I think we've got enough people on the sideline that we understand that, and [Anquan] understands that," Mason said. "There's a time when you've got to uplift your team with your words, and then there's a time you just sit back and kind of let things unfold."

This offense needed a Boldin. The team has always had a leader in linebacker Ray Lewis, and the defense always had players with the most dominant personalities in a Tony Siragusa, Rob Burnett, Rod Woodson, Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs.

But finally, the offense has Boldin.

"He's a quiet leader during practice and meetings," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "He doesn't say a lot unless he has something to say. He got after the guys last week, and to me, that's a big part of the reason that he fits us so well. He is a man, he has the players' respect and he knows football. Anquan is very X and O's oriented."

It doesn't hurt that he leads the team in receptions, either. The Ravens signed him to a four-year, $28 million contract during the off season, and Boldin has responded by catching 45 passes for 596 yards with six touchdowns. But the respect from his teammates just doesn't come from what he does on game day.

It also comes from the time he spent in off season mini-camps and in the weight room, and how he handles himself in team meetings.

"I've never considered myself a vocal, rah-rah guy," said Boldin. "But if something needs to be said, I have no reservation about standing up and saying something. At the same time, I'm more of action guy. If the guys go out and see me work hard, they will follow suit. I'm pretty sure everybody knows that in the Atlanta game we weren't playing up to potential. And for me, that's the frustrating part, of seeing how much talent we have on the offensive side of the ball, and not seeing that talent manifests itself on the field."

It's seems ironic that Boldin would be a take charge guy. During his final seasons in Arizona, there were constant reports about him being jealous of Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and disgruntled because he didn't get a new contract.

Here in Baltimore, there hasn't been one complaint. Boldin and Mason have hit it off like they have been playing together for years.

" Mase and I seemed to vibe right off the bat," said Boldin. "I've learned this over the years that if you read the papers and how the media portrayed me, you would think I'm a diva, and that I'm all about getting what I can, getting paid and things like that. That's far from the truth.

"When I first came here, a lot of people said Mase doesn't want another guy coming in here thinking he was the No. 1 guy, yet he has accepted me from day one, along with everyone else in the organization," said Boldin. "We're both at the point in our careers where the only thing we want to do is win a championship."

That drives Boldin. Like a lot of us, he sees a Ravens team that can win it all, but hasn't come close to it potential yet. Twice this season Boldin has ripped into his teammates, the other time being on Sept. 19 when the Ravens lost 15-10 to Cincinnati.

Boldin doesn't want to do it a third time, but if needed, he won't hesitate.

"Honestly, we have a mixture of guys," said Boldin. "The older guys who have been around, have played in this league for a number of years, they have a pretty good grasp on how good this team can really be. The young guys are unsure because they haven't been around, haven't experienced different things in the NFL. They know we're a good team, but don't really know how great this team can be. "I've been on teams where we've lost five or six games in a row. "I've been on a team that's been in the Super Bowl, and I can honestly say that team was nowhere near close to this team. Whatever it takes for us to get there, I'll do it."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

Listen to Mike Preston on the "Bruce Cunningham Show" from noon to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays on 105.7 FM

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